Mon, 28 September 2009 - 9:43 pm

Words

In the hopes of getting Matt to take something more than just water, I went to the kitchens this morning and tried to get something soup-like.

It feels like forever since I was working in there with the girls. They greeted me with nods and sidelong glances; I’m not sure what they’ve heard, but there has definitely been talk about me. Perhaps it’s paranoia, but it felt like they were all sizing me up, weighing me against the latest rumour. I can’t begin to know what it is they’ve heard; it could be about Dad, or my last meeting with the General, or my friend in the grip of a fever. Or maybe something completely different, something that’s happened while I’ve been busy.

I didn’t ask. I don’t want to worry about it right now; I have enough crawling around in my head, begging to be heard. I took the can of soup they gave me and the instructions that it was for us to share, and I left. I could feel their eyes on me as I went.

He didn’t eat any of it. I’ll try again later.

 

Dad came by to see me again today. He brought dinner with him, slipping in just before the rain came. He would usually sit and talk with the boys, he said, so he might as well come and talk with me.

I can see how this might be habit-forming. Sitting down to eat with him feels so normal, even though we’re perching on hard chairs and using a gurney as a table. We talked about nothing, exchanged stories about our travels – harmless stuff mostly, nothing too weighed with emotion or meaning. It was like comparing our days after we had been working, me at the bookstore and him at that car yard. An off-kilter, time After version.

We stumbled over ourselves, because we’re not used to each other any more. A couple of times, Dad looked at me, completely lost for what to say next. The third time it happened, he grimaced and shook his head.

“Faithy, you went and grew up while I wasn’t looking.”

I stared and him and asked what he meant by that, unsure about how to take it.

“You led your group, when before you spent so long following your sister, or that friend of yours.” He meant Bree. “Then you gave the General a grilling, and no-one has dared to do that.” His smile was secretly pleased that someone had given the General a hard time.

I told him how I ended up in charge and he smiled at me. I was sheepish when I admitted how I had pinned the General in his office for that talking-to and he laughed. It felt like the first time in forever that I had honestly smiled.

“Good for you,” he said. Then he added something that made my stomach flip-flop on itself. He said he was proud of me.

Abruptly, I felt like crying. “Don’t say that, Dad.” It was out before I could stop it. He looked puzzled and I struggled to know how to explain it. “You’ve only had the highlights – it wasn’t all like that. There’s a lot you don’t know.”

I killed a man. That’s what I wanted to tell him. My mouth wouldn’t form the words and my heart didn’t want to see his face fall. I wanted to say how awful I was, but it wasn’t fair to burden him with all that.

He covered my hands and I realised that they had curled into fists in front of me. “I know you, Faith. That’s enough for me.”

I bit my lip so that I wouldn’t say any more and just nodded. He was kind enough to change the subject, though he chose to talk about Matt and that isn’t guaranteed to make me feel better right now. We went to check on him and found him the same as before – hot, clammy, and lying quietly. At least he hasn’t been restless today.

Dad said that Matt will be all right. It was a jolt to realise that he was the first one to do that. I’ve said it plenty of times. I’ve been told that he’s in danger, he’s slipping, he needs more help. I’ve been told to hang in there, keep trying, don’t give up. But no-one else has said that he’ll be okay.

Words have a strange power. It doesn’t make it any more true to hear it, but it helps. I guess that’s why I write this blog – to try to make it more real and permanent by putting it into words.

 

Something’s going on. I have to go.

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